Her nerves were so raw that the muted thump of the car door closing made her gasp. She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself down as he circled the car. She would not panic and run. Not this time. This was just a fling; all about pleasure, excitement, desire. It was not about forever and happily ever after. She could not afford to confuse those two utterly separate issues.
She jerked as he opened the driver’s side door. The big Chevy Avalanche seemed much smaller and warmer once the dark length of him was folded into it. He turned the keys in the ignition and gave her an inquisitive look as the motor purred to life. “So?” His gaze slid swiftly down her body, then returned to her face. “Where to?”
She made a helpless little gesture. “Well, that depends.”
“On, ah, what you want to do. What your interests are,” she offered desperately.
An ironic smile flickered across his lean, dark face. “My interests,” he repeated.
“Yes,” she pushed on. “There’s the, um, art museum, with a show of . . . I think it was Frida Kahlo, last time I checked. And the Pike Street Market, of course. The Space Needle is always a favorite. And there are some wonderful boat trips, if you haven’t seen the—”
“No art. No shopping. No boats.”
Raine eyed him, suspicious hint of dark laughter in his voice. “Then . . . what do you want to do?” she faltered.
A sensual smile deepened the grooves around his mouth.
Heat swept up over her chest and face. Her heart began to gallop. The silence between them stretched out. He wasn’t going to move or speak, the ruthless bastard. He was going to torture her. Watch her twist in the flames with that knowing, piratical smile on his face. He was going to wait . . . and make her say it.
And he knew that she would. Those searching dark eyes saw right through her, all the way down to the sweet, restless ache that pulsed inside her, where the wild woman waited, naked and willful and wanton. He knew perfectly well how much she wanted him.
She opened her mouth, praying that something coherent would come out. “What do you want, Seth?” she whispered.
His gaze dropped to her lips. “Take a wild guess.”
She closed her eyes and took the plunge. “Do you want . . . me?”
The silence was agonizing. She opened her eyes. The naked hunger in his face stole her breath.
He seized a wisp of her hair that had escaped from her knot, and twined it around his finger. It was so pale it seemed to glow against his hand. “Yes,” he said. “Can I have you?”
She gave him a short, jerky nod.
There. She’d done it. She was committed, and hurtling forward into the unknown. Her heart hammered in her chest. He was so brutally handsome. She wanted to stroke the harsh, elegant planes of his face, to soothe the pulsations of red-tinged, angry energy that she felt emanating from him.
Splashes of red, anger and blood flashed across her dazzled inner vision, like dream images. A prickle of unease mixed into the shimmering, giddy alchemy of her excitement. Danger.
It had to be a side effect of sexual arousal, she told herself. She would not let herself panic and run. She wanted this so badly.
He turned the key, shutting off the motor. “Take down your hair.”
She was glad for something to do with her trembling hands. She plucked the hair-sticks out of the low chignon, slipped them into her pocket and let the coil of hair spring loose over her shoulders.
Seth gathered it into his hand and buried his face against the rippling mass. “Oh, God,” he said, in a harsh, muffled voice.
She let out a startled squeak as he seized her, hauling her up and over the plastic console that divided the seats, and onto his lap. His arms tightened around her trembling body, and he stared up into her eyes. As fierce and intent as if he could read her mind.
Maybe he could. She didn’t care. She could hardly feel any more naked to him than she did now. She stared back into his eyes and wiggled against him, her legs dangling over the console. Loving the hard solidity of his body beneath her. She touched his chest tentatively with her fingertips, breath fluttering. His muscles were firm and springy. His heat scorched her. He had to be running a fever. His breath was as rapid and jerky as her own as she looped her arm behind his neck and delicately touched her lips to his.
He made a harsh sound deep in his throat, and his arms tightened around her with steely strength. That little butterfly kiss she had bestowed upon him was permission for the real kiss to begin; a hot, devouring kiss unlike any she had ever known or imagined. She fell into it headlong, intoxicated by his voracious energy, the taste and feel of him. He smelled so good; soap and leather and wool and a unique smell all his own, warm and slightly lemony. His jaw was scratchy and rough, his sensual mouth coaxed hers open. Eager, bold and delicious.
She wanted to writhe against him, crawl inside his skin, touch everything, taste everything. He was so strong, bursting with fierce energy, and she ached with hunger for it. His thick shaft pressed against her bottom, rock hard, radiating heat.
The calluses on his hands caught and snagged against her nylon stockings as he slid it slowly under the hem of her skirt. “I can feel your heat,” he said huskily. He eased her legs gently apart and his hand slid still higher, his fingertips brushing across the sensitive flesh of her inner thighs.
She pressed her face against his neck, acutely aware of every feather-light stroke against her thighs. The path of his gentle, questing fingers was traced with light and heat. A sudden burst of emotion made her clench her legs tightly, trapping his hand between them. “I think I’m burning up,” she whispered.
He wound his hand through her tangled hair again, tilting her face back and staring into her eyes.
“You want me,” he said. It was not a question.
She gave him a tiny nod, as much as her trapped hair would allow. He unwound her hair from his fingers, and his hand slid higher. He pushed her legs just wide enough so that the tip of his finger brushed against her most sensitive spot. The hot sunburst of sensation made her gasp and jerk in his arms.
He laughed at her shocked expression, trailing his fingertip tenderly in teasing little circles. His eyes were bright with challenge. “It’s like putting my hand into a hot cloud,” he whispered. “You’re already wet. I can’t wait to get these clothes off of you.”
Her body betrayed her, quivering with eagerness. “Seth, this is going too fast—”
“You love it.” He cut off her panicked protests with a fierce, marauding kiss and his hand slid boldly higher, cupping her whole sex. Touching her where no-one had ever caressed her, not even during that terrible, botched episode with Frederick. His hand was slow and sure and wickedly clever, and his tongue thrust into her mouth as he stroked the pad of his thumb around her clitoris, tracing delicate, lazy little circles through the fabric of her panties and nylons. She jerked and trembled in his arms, dazzled and lost.
A loud burst of male laughter rudely broke the spell, and they both jerked apart, startled. She stiffened, pulling away, and Seth cursed beneath his breath.
A group of men were walking towards the gate, smirking and catcalling. One of them made a thumbs-up sign at the car. She looked down at herself, appalled. Her hair was a tangled halo, her skirt bunched up around her waist, her face damp and hot, and probably cherry red. Legs wantonly spread, and his hand—touching her. Dear God, what was he thinking? What was she thinking? This tryst had spun out of control with perilous speed. She squirmed away from him, shivering. “Stop it, Seth. I am not an exhibitionist!”
“Me neither, usually.” He grabbed her hand and pressed it against his rigid penis, clearly outlined against his jeans. “Sex with an audience is definitely not my scene, but you’ve got me so hot, I don’t even care.”
“Well, I care!” she said breathlessly.
“Could’ve fooled me, sweetheart.” He cupped the nape of her neck and dragged her face to his for another rough, plundering kiss. He pressed her down against his erection as he wound her hair into his fingers, devouring her mouth. His hands were hard, insistent, right on the edge of painful, but it was a quivering, knife-edged pain. As if she were going to fly apart and only he could hold her together.
She squeezed her eyes shut, digging her fingernails into the tough dark leather of his coat. She felt intensely vulnerable, and so excited she felt she would melt apart into a shimmering cloud. She squirmed against the unyielding bulge beneath her bottom and kissed him back hungrily.
He vibrated against her with silent laughter and pulled away, his eyes taunting her. Gleaming with smug masculine triumph.
She tried to glare at him. “That’s not fair,” she said shakily. “This is your fault.”
His eyes narrowed. “What’s my fault?”
“This!” She made a frantic gesture at their entwined bodies. “It’s your fault, for turning me on, making me lose my head!” She swatted him as he pulled her back for another kiss. “Stop that. Oh, God. Please, Seth.”
“But you want it,” he coaxed, his voice husky and seductive. “I love how you respond. I wish I could make all those guys just disappear. I would open my jeans and slide you down onto my cock, right here and now. You could ride me until you come apart. And that would just be just the appetizer, sweetheart. Just a teaser, to hold us until we get to the nearest bed. The nearest door that we can close and lock. That’s when I’ll really give it to you. As much as you want. Hard and fast, or sweet and slow. Whatever you want. All day long.”
She stared with helpless fascination into the seductive molten darkness of his eyes. She felt flushed and wanton, unbearably tempted to yield to him, to give him anything.
The door to the warehouse burst open. Three men came out. Something inside her clenched up. The outrageously naughty fantasy he had woven in her mind evaporated into smoke.
She dug her fingers into his shoulders, trying to steady herself. “But those guys aren’t going to disappear,” she whispered. “I’d . . . I’d rather wait for the bed and the door. Please stop teasing me.”
His face lost all expression. He pulled his hand out of her hair and leaned back. “Then stop lap-dancing right now, sweetheart,” he said, his voice cool and ironic. “You’re making me crazy.”
She scrambled back into the passenger seat, pulling down her skirt. “Sorry,” she whispered, and promptly wondered what on earth she was apologizing for.
He put the Chevy into gear. She tumbled back against the seat as he accelerated out of the parking lot. The world outside the car was a fuzzy blur, reminiscent of her own interior confusion, and she fumbled wildly for her glasses, putting them on with trembling hands. She put on her seat belt, smoothed her cold hands against her crumpled skirt and tried to breath slowly and steadily. It was a wasted effort. Her lungs refused to expand. “Where are we going?” she ventured.
His eyes flicked over her. “Where do you live?”
“No. Not my house,” she said, without thinking.
“No? Why not?”
She shrugged, helpless to explain. “I . . . I don’t feel safe there.”
“And you think you’re safe with me?”
Her spine stiffened at the derision in his tone. “No, Seth,” she said, with soft dignity. “You don’t make me feel safe at all.”
The mocking smile faded from his face.
“That’s why I want you,” she said simply. “You make me feel wild. Fearless. I . . I need to feel that way.”
There it was, out in the open. The naked truth. He didn’t seem to like it, judging from his grim face, the muscle twitching in his jaw.
He flicked on the turn signal. Panic leaped and pirouetted in Raine’s midriff as he began to pull off the highway.
“What--where are we—”
“I saw signs for a hotel.” He shot her a brief glance. “A bed and a door that locks. Wild and fearless. Whatever you want, sweetheart.”
He pulled into the Marriot and parked. When she got out of the car he took her by the arm, pulling her alongside him with such restless urgency that she had to scurry to keep from stumbling.
She had set a huge machine in motion. No way to stop it now, thank God. The timid, terrified part of her wanted to cut and run, and the wanton pirate queen was triumphantly glad to have outmaneuvered it. She couldn’t sabotage herself now. Not with Seth. He wasn’t going to give her the option.
Her fate was sealed.
End of Excerpt